Gay affirmative psychotherapy
is a form of psychotherapy
for gay and lesbian clients which encourages them to accept their sexual orientation, and does not attempt to change them to heterosexual, or to eliminate or diminish same-sex desires and behaviors. Gay affirmative psychotherapy is the accepted standard in North America and Europe. The American Psychological Association
(APA) offers guidelines and materials for gay affirmative psychotherapy. Affirmative psychotherapy states that homosexuality or bisexuality is not a mental illness. In fact, embracing and affirming gay identity can be a key component to recovery from other mental illnesses or substance abuse. There are a number of individuals for whom neither gay-affirmative therapy nor conversion therapy
might be appropriate, however. Clients whose religious beliefs teach against homosexual behavior may require some other method of integration of their conflicting religious and sexual selves. Psychology professors at the evangelical Grove City College
suggest that clients generally judge therapists who do not respect religiously-based identity outcomes to be unhelpful. In general, it is not common practice to apply gay affirmative psychotherapy to clients with a heterosexual sexual orientation.
Countering a century's worth of psychiatry that understood homosexuality to be a mental illness
, current guidelines instead encourage psychotherapists to assist patients in overcoming the stigma of homosexuality rather than the sexual orientation. Because some mental health professionals are unfamiliar with the social difficulties of the coming out
process, particular to other factors such as age, race, ethnicity, or religious affiliation, they are encouraged by the APA to learn more about how gay, lesbian, and bisexual clients face discrimination in its various forms. Many gays and lesbians are rejected from their own families and form their own familial relationships and support systems that may also be unfamiliar to mental health professionals, who are encouraged to take into account the diversity of extended relationships in lieu of family.
German government action
In March 2008 the German federal government (CDU/SPD) summarized the professional consensus as indicating that homosexuality is no illness, and that conversion therapy is dangerous and doesn't help homosexual people. Voluntary changes to sexual orientation are not an option, according to the administration's answer to parliamentary questioning. The German government also made the point that Gay Affirmative Psychotherapy can help clients.
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